Wednesday, 31 March 2010

How to Help

From Marta Andreasen's office

What is currently happening?

Marta is now a member of the Petitions Committee in the European Parliament and has met some of you, either at her Brussels office or at the Soha march in Malaga. However, her focus remains to get the question of the Spanish property abuses debated in the plenary of the Parliament because the Petitions Committee does not have the power to request or impose any action. For this, we need help from all of you.

What can I do?

We need all nationalities concerned to write to their MEPs, and report back to me, as soon as possible. The window for debate in Parliament is not so wide, and we need to act fast: a large cross-party support is what this cause needs.

The steps are:

1. Find out who your MEPs are: see link below by country of origin.

2. Email as many as possible, in your own name (see below). There is no need to contact the EFD members (Europe of Freedom and Democracy), they are Marta's group and already support you. I have provided a short text for simplicity. You may add to it, but keep in mind that some may not read beyond a few lines.

3. Please write back to me with the names of the MEPs you contacted – please start the email subject with “MEP”. We will use this information in Parliament.

The largest group, by nationality, in alphabetical order are:









United Kingdom:

For all other nationalities, please find your MEPs following this link:

A suggested text to send follows.

Thank you all for taking the time to contact your MEPs - we must show a strong and organised face to Europe.

Best wishes of success,

Matthieu Laloux
Assistant to Marta Andreasen, MEP

*** ***
Dear Mr / Ms *<Name of MEP>*,

You may be aware of the situation affecting over 250,000 home owners in Spain. The Spanish authorities are threatening the lawful owners with demolition of their houses without compensation, or are imposing extortionate financial penalties. These judicial orders have been given under an arbitrary cancellation of building permits or a retroactive application of the law.

This issue is widely reported in the European press (simply enter “Spanish property scandal/abuse” in a search engine), yet the Spanish government is dismissing those claims as a mere infringement of building regulations by wealthy foreigners. This is not true: the families affected are mostly ordinary Spanish citizens, and retired foreigners, who are facing ruin and are being denied their most basic human right of a shelter and peaceful existence. These people are fighting their cases through the local courts, but are not being given justice. Their suffering is real. I am one of these people.

We are asking you to support a motion for an urgent debate about the Spanish property abuses in the plenary session of the European Parliament and seize the opportunity of the Spanish Presidency of the European Union to solve the issue.

Yours Sincerely,

<Your Name & Address>

Thursday, 18 March 2010

A blind alley

(Reproduced with kind permission of Per Svensson)
A blind alley By Per Svensson: A certainly well meaning Secretary for Europe in the British Foreign Ministry, Chris Bryant, has been on a lightning visit to Spain in an attempt to assist his countrymen who are experiencing serious problems with property purchases in the country. During a meeting in the British Consulate in Malaga an agreement was reached with the Secretary of State for Territorial Cooperation in the Spanish National Government, Gaspar Zarrias (previously the strong right hand of Ex-President Chavez in the Andalusia Government) and the Minister in Andalusia for Urban Affairs, Juan Espadas. The agreement was that the Junta de Andalusia would pay for a functionary “expert in urban matters, education, health and social services” to be placed in the British Consulate in Malaga to provide “information to residents in Spain … to avoid legal problems.” It is anticipated that a similar arrangement will be made in Alicante with an urban affairs expert from the Generalitat Valenciana. The British Ambassador and a number of associations defending the interests of people affected by urban planning abuses, or by the excessive use of the Law on the Coasts, were also at the meeting. The threats of demolitions I understand the interest of the victims groups to take part in any discussions which may affect their situation, hoping maybe that the meeting itself could help in resolving their real problems: the threats of more demolitions of foreigner’s dwellings. I also understand the intention of the representatives of the Andalusia and Valencia Governments, who are trying to find a cheap way out of their responsibilities for the abuses. There was nothing in the statements made by Mr. Zarrias to indicate that the demolition orders issued by the Junta de Andalusia would be withdrawn, and he stressed that the information given by their urban expert to residents had as its aim to prevent legal problems (meaning in the future). May we ask: Has this information not been available all the time in the offices of the vast number of private lawyers and real estate agencies, the office of the European Residents in the Alicante Provincial Government, the offices of the Defensores de Consumidores and notary’s offices, and on the web page of the property registrars in Spain? Even on the web pages of Ciudadanos Europeos the information has been available for years. So how could the scandals in Albox, Catral, Axarquia, Cartama, Mijas, Marbella, Bigastro, Zarra, Lliber or Montroi, just to mention a few, have happened? Information sources for trans-national property buyers Because the decision by a person in the north to buy a home in the south is mainly taken on a cold, rainy and windy, winter day, after viewing a film or TV report with palm threes and beautiful beaches, visiting one of the many property exhibitions or reading an advert about homes in the sun for sale. In almost every town throughout Northern Europe there is an active network of real estate agents offering properties for sale in Southern Europe. You do not need any special education or training to become such an agent, you must just have a phone/fax/e-mail. Almost none of them speak the language or know the laws of the countries in which they are selling. What they do know is that they will get 5-10% commission on the sales price when the client buys. The client is taken by the sales agent to the country where the property is located, or is met at the airport by a collaborator. He is not taken anywhere to get good advice. Almost invariably the visit ends with them signing a private sales/purchasing contract and paying a deposit. More and more trans-national property buyers are using the Internet for additional information but very few know they for instance should go to the web site of the “Ilustre Colegio de Registradores” of Spain to find the correct information. When using the Internet to search for information on property in Spain, almost all will enter “property in Spain.” I did so and found 133,000,000 entries. Having studying the 30 first entries, I saw they were all selling properties, or services connected with a purchase. The property registrars are not mentioned. I then typed “Spanish property registry” knowing well that almost no new property purchaser would be aware important information could be obtained there. I found 2,420, 000 entries, and after searching the first 30, found that the “Ilustre Colegio” was not amongst them. The entries were openly or disguised property sales. It was only when I searched specifically that I arrived at the Registrars site. Who would know to do that? Only those professionally connected with the sale of property in Spain, never an average buyer. The Consulates, a blind alley The British Embassy and Consulates have a good record when it comes to taking up the issue of abuse against their countrymen in Spain but they are blind alleys when it comes to solving the problems. Will victims of all nationalities go to one of the two British Consulates with their problems? Should potential new buyers be expected to approach Spanish functionaries sitting in those consulates before making a decision to buy? A ridiculous assumption. It is the year long battle of organisations like AUN, investigations by the European Parliament (re-read the Auken Report of almost a year ago from the EUP – there has still been no answer from the Spanish or the Valencia Governments!) and the reports in the foreign press, that have put pressure on Spanish politicians. I expect they will now all praise the agreement with the British Consulate in Malaga, brush their hands and say, “Now all foreigners can safely buy in Spain!” No, they cannot, and they should all be warned against trying to do so as long as innocent victims are still under the threat of losing their home, or having it vandalised by scheming “agentes urbanisticos” under the Valencia property laws; but still no proper, functioning information system has been set up. The Spanish Governments have disqualified themselves by not giving any form of answer or reaction to the year old Auken Report, approved by the European Parliament by an overwhelming majority. This valuable and accurate document must not be forgotten or ignored. We must go back to point 35 of the final conclusions in the Auken report which states: Once again (the Parliament) calls on the Commission to initiate an information campaign directed at EU citizens buying real estate in a Member State other than their own. A proposal for such a permanent information campaign within the framework of the European institutions has been submitted to one of the leading members of the European Parliament. That is the road.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Letter to Señor Don José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero

(Courtesy of Keith Donovan)

Good day,

The attached are of a letter posted (Hard Copy) on the 15th March 2010, to Señor Don José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero as both Prime Minister of Spain and as the current President of the EU.

Other hard copies have been sent to –

Sr. Javier Vallés Liberal, Oficina Económica del Presidente del Gobierno,

Sr. Mariano Rajoy

Señora Rosa Diez

Should you wish to, please feel free to forward this missive to whomever you feel may be interested.

It appears that Señor Zapatero is attempting to blame the autonomous communities throughout Spain as the cause of the current and ongoing problems with the Construction and Property scandals enveloping Spain.

However, Central Government must be responsible for the Spanish Constitution as I have laid out in the attached letter.

Article 47 of the Spanish Constitution states: "All Spaniards have the right to enjoy decent and adequate housing. The public authorities shall promote the necessary conditions and establish appropriate standards in order to make this right effective, regulating land use in accordance with the general interest in order to prevent speculation. The community shall have a share in the benefits accruing from the town-planning policies of public bodies"


The Spanish Constitution has been reformed once (Article 13.2, Title I) to extend to the citizens of the European Union the rights as outlined above.


Protect all Spaniards and all the peoples of Spain in the exercise of human rights, their cultures and traditions, languages and institutions.



Keith Donovan

Dear Sir,
The Spanish police are to be applauded for their superb detection work in every sphere and at every level of Spain’s community! Over the last 3 months alone we have read of the seizure of tons of Cocaine and other drugs and the arrest of the perpetrators. Every day we read of the arrest of more people on corruption charges up and down the length of the county. Murders are tracked down and brought to justice as are ETA terrorists and their helpers.
So, how IS it that the Property Developers, Promoters and Construction companies appear to be above the laws of Spain?
This group appears to find every way they can to duck or evade or get around the laws of Spain written so as to protect the house buyers!
It appears that the Government of Spain still does not understand what is going on and have injected Spanish taxpayer’s money into the banks that backed the builders and as a result have lost BILLIONS of Euros. Through there own stupidity and greed the banks expect the Spanish people to bail them out. It is estimated that there are something like 1,500,000 – 2,000,000 buildings that have either been built, half built or abandoned. How may resales? Another 1 million?
If we accept that the exposure of the banks to the builders could be of the order of 300 billion Euros - the opinion of a securities analyst that the exposure of the banks to the cedulas ALONE is nearly another 300 billion Euros (plus other classes of more conventional mortgage backed-securities, which are possibly at least as large), then we are talking about an injection of something of over half of one years GDP in Spain.
That these property developers have been allowed to break so many laws by not meeting the legal obligations and infringing urban law is breathtaking: *They do not guarantee refund of deposits. By law they have to! Law 57/1968 rules that developers will have to provide free of charge to the purchaser/s a bank guarantee or Insurance Policy to guarantee the refund of their stage payments plus 6% interest in the event of the developer becoming insolvent. What do the Developers always say?” We are too big to have to follow this law” and ignore it? Why is that allowed? *They do not guarantee indemnification for possible damage to the building. *They do not build to the building regulations stated by law, concerning noise; humidity/damp; thermal insulation; accesses for handicapped & elderly people. *They charge the buyer for builder’s electricity & water, this is prohibited by law. *They do not provide a licence for the work nor a license for first occupancy, without which the buyer will not be able to contract electricity, water & gas supply. In some cases that is not true as I have water and electricity even though I do not have a Certificate of Habitacion. 7000 dwelling, no Certificates of Habitacion! *They use contracts that are previously written with abusive clauses against the buyers. My (Spanish) lawyer laughed out loud (and then apologised) when he read the piece of paper that covered my 10 year builders guarantee! He asked if I had read and understood what I had signed, I said yes BUT if I did not sign it they would not give me the keys and I had a removal van with all my goods in it waiting outside! Why did he laugh? The document stated that any building work required on the building or surrounds, any extra work, wall heightening, pool building etc, in fact anything within the boundaries of my house HAD to be carried out by a named builder! If I did not use this named builder for work and arranged others to do it at half the cost, then my guarantee would become null and void. The named company was owned by the builders Father-in-Law! Nepotism, restriction of trade, creating a monopoly – all against Spanish law.
And they demanded the last payment in cash, I wonder why!
*They use solicitors that are on the payroll of their companies, they charge their fees through these firms, making proof of payment more difficult.
*They hand over the properties without them being finished, with damage and construction faults that affect habitability of the house or the whole urbanization.
*They make multiple extra charges: damage repair; finishing incomplete work; legal action, contracts, disputes & reclamations.
*They declare themselves bankrupt when they receive judicial reclamations so that the buyer has to then “quita” (which means, be paid less), and also has to “esperar” (which means, in most cases waiting years to recover part of the money).
*They walk away from urbanizacions that are incomplete and leave the people on them with no electricity, no water, no sewerage and the Spanish Government does nothing!

How is it that the political party in charge of a particular town can approve a development and 3 years later another different political party is voted in and declares the development illegal?
How fair is that?
If I owned a bank and a builder asked me for a multi million Euro loan I would say no problem BUT:- *There would be a Bank Manager/Supervisor allocated to the project and be involved in all stages of the projects development. *Any sale would be carried out with the direct involvement of the bank.
All stage payments would be paid directly into the bank and NOT to the promoter etc, etc.
Maybe they could also ensure that all workers on the sites are legally employed and paying Social Security payments?
The banks that are in trouble now are begging for a bailout and the people of Spain are all paying for these reckless, greedy, venal, lazy and incompetent banks as they are rescued with Government money and, as Governments have no money, they only have the Spanish people’s taxes to rescue these banks. They have speculated, gambled and lost, with your money!
The amount of corruption involved in the building industry is mind blowing, and what had been uncovered thus far is the tip of the iceberg. Every day I read that more Politicians, Mayors, Councillors, Architects, Planning Officers and other municipal staff have been arrested on corruption charges.
If the Government want to find out the full extent of this corruption then all they have to do is investigate every large urbanization created over the last 10 years or so. They will be horrified at the numbers. (And the millions of Euros in (untaxed) Black money) and Social Security payments illegally evaded.
And, even now, promoters want to build more new urbanizacions! As nobody in Europe would be foolish enough to buy off plan anyway, Spain HAS to diversify away from concreting over their lovely country.
Article 47 of the Spanish Constitution states: “All Spaniards have the right to enjoy decent and adequate housing. The public authorities shall promote the necessary conditions and establish appropriate standards in order to make this right effective, regulating land use in accordance with the general interest in order to prevent speculation. The community shall have a share in the benefits accruing from the town-planning policies of public bodies”
The Spanish Constitution has been reformed once (Article 13.2, Title I) to extend to the citizens of the European Union the rights as outlined above.
Protect all Spaniards and all the peoples of Spain in the exercise of human rights, their cultures and traditions, languages and institutions.
The Spanish people are paying dearly for the greed and corruption of the Property
Developers, Promoters and Construction companies and the Banks!
Eventually the EU will lose patience with Spain’s inability to cope with this scandal
and that could lead to the loss of hundreds of millions of Euros in aid!
Lastly, according to the Corruption Perceptions Index produced by Transparency
International, Spain ranks as the 32nd worst performer as found in 13 independent
surveys! That says it all really!
The perception of Spain is that it is on a downward spiral and the people of this country must realise that as long as Central Government down to the local mayors ignore the facts laid out above then there is no hope for the foreseeable future in Spain regaining it’s pride.
Yours Sincerely
Keith Donovan

Estimado Presidente Señor Don José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero,
¡Hay que aplaudir los esfuerzos de los cuerpos y fuerzas de seguridad del estado por su excelente trabajo en todas las esferas de la comunidad española!
En los últimos tres meses hemos leído que han requisado toneladas de cocaína y otras drogas, así como han llevado a cabo multitud de detenciones de los traficantes.
Cada día, leemos noticias de arrestos de gente con cargos importantes, por delitos de corrupción a lo largo de todo el país.
Tanto asesinos como terroristas son perseguidos, detenidos y llevados ante la justicia.
¿Entonces, como es posible que suceda, que los Empresas Constructoras, Promotores y Constructores están por encima de la ley?
Parece que estos grupos encuentran todas las formas posibles de evadir las leyes y normativas escritas para proteger a los propietarios.
Parece ser que el gobierno de España todavía no entiende lo que esta pasando y han inyectado el dinero de los contribuyentes en los bancos que apoyaron y respaldaron a estos constructores, y que ahora ha resultado en una perdida de BILLONES de euros. Y en estos momentos de crisis derivados de su propia estupidez y avaricia los bancos esperan a que el pueblo les salve de la quema.
Se estima que hay entre 1.500.000 – 2.000.000 edificios construidos, medio construidos y abandonados. ¿Y cuantas reventas? Quizás otro millón.
Si aceptamos que el descubierto de los bancos hacia los constructores poder ser al orden de 300 billones de euros –la opinión de un analista-es que SOLO el descubierto de los bancos hacia las cédulas es casi otras 300 billones de euros (más otros tipos de seguros hipotecarias convencionales, que quizás son iguales de cuantiosos), entonces estamos hablando de una inyección económica de mas de la mitad del PNB de un año.
Se les ha permitido infringir tantas normas a estos constructores que es para quedarse sin aliento.
-No garantizan la devolución del depósito.
¡Por ley lo tienen que hacer!
La ley 57/1968 dice que los constructores tienen que proporcionar, sin cargo alguno al comprador, una garantía del banco o una póliza de seguro para garantizar la devolución de los pagos por fases mas un 6% de interés, por si acaso el constructor se vuelve insolvente.
¿Por qué dicen los constructores que son demasiados grandes para que se le aplique esa ley? Y lo ignoran. ¿Por qué se les permite eso?
-No garantizan indemnización por posibles daños al edificio.
-No construyen según la normativa en base a ruido, humedad, aislamiento, accesos para minusválidos/ancianos?…
-Cobran al comprador la luz y agua del constructor. Esto también es ilegal.
-No proporcionan una licencia de construcción, ni licencia de habitabilidad. Sin las cuales el propietario no podrá conectar ni luz ni agua. Es ciertos que en algunos casos esto no se cumple, en el mío por ejemplo, no tengo certificado de habitabilidad, pero tengo enganche de luz y agua. ¡7000 residentes y ni un certificado?…!
-Utilizan contratos previamente escritas con cláusulas abusivas para el comprador. Mi abogado (español) se rió cuando leyó la garantía de construcción que me cubría para 10 años. Me pregunto si había leído y entendió lo que había firmado, dije que sí, pero que si no firmaba no me daban las llaves y?… ¡Tenia una furgoneta de mudanza fuera con todos mis pertenecías esperándome!
¿Por que se reía? El documento decía que cualquier obra que había que hacer en el edificio o sus alrededores (piscina, muros exteriores, etc.) TENIAN que realizarse con una compañía en concreto. Si no utilizábamos esta compañía y buscabamos otro que nos lo podría hacer a la mitad del coste, la garantía quedaba nula.
Dicha compañía pertenecía al suegro del constructor.
Nepotismo, restricción de comercio, creaciones de un monopolio – todo en contra de las leyes españolas. Y encima querían el último pago en efectivo, ¿Por qué será?
-Utilizan abogados que están en sus nominas, meten cargos para estos, haciendo demostración de pagos bastante mas difícil.
-Entregan las propiedades sin acabarlas, con daños o con fallos de construcción que afectan la habitabilidad de esa residencia o quizás a toda la urbanización.
-Se declaran insolventes y ellos reciben reclamaciones judiciales, dejando el comprador con una pérdida (changed this part to “leaving the buyer at a loss” as it dosn´t make any sense to directly translate what was written) y en muchos casos esperando años para poder recuperar parte de su dinero.
-Abandonan urbanizaciones inacabadas, dejando a los residentes sin luz, agua, alcantarillado, ¡¡y el gobierno españñol no hace nada!
¿Cómo es posible que un partido político, a cargo de un pueblo aprueba una construcción y que tres años después con un cambio del partido y declaran esa misma construcción ilegal?
¿¿Eso es justo?
Si yo fuera dueño de un banco y un constructor me pediría un préstamo de millones de euros, yo diría: claro, ningún problema, pero?…
-Habrá un encargado/supervisor puesto en el proyecto y estaría involucrado en todas las fases del proyecto.
-Cualquier venta seria efectuada involucrando al banco.
-Todos los pagos serian pagos directamente al banco, no al promotor, etc.
-Posiblemente podrían asegurarse de que todos los trabajadores en la obra están contratados legalmente y con seguridad social.
Los bancos que tienen problemas ahora están pediendo ayuda y es el pueblo quien esta pagando a estos bancos vagos, avaros, incompetentes, sin cuidados?… solo se salvan con el dinero del gobierno, y como el gobierno no tiene dinero, solo tienen los impuestos para salvar a estos bancos. Han especulado, han jugado con TU dinero y lo han perdido.
La cantidad de corrupción en el sector de la construcción es increíble y lo que se ha descubierto hasta ahora solo es el pico del iceberg. Cada día leo que más políticos, alcaldes, consejeros, arquitectos, planificadores municipales y otros funcionarios han sido detenidos por cargos de corrupción.
Si el gobierno de verdad quiere encontrar toda la corrupción tendrá que investigar todas las grandes construcciones echas en los últimos 10 años. Estarían horrorizados con los números, y los millones de euros en dinero negro y pagos evadidos a la seguridad social.
E incluso ahora, ¡las grandes constructores quieren seguir construyendo nuevas urbanizaciones!
Como nadie en Europa es tan tonto para comprar sobre plano, España TIENE que diversificar más allá de cubrir su maravilloso país de cemento.
Y finalmente,
El articulo 47 de la constitución española dice “Todos los españoles tienen derecho a disfrutar de una vivienda digna y adecuada. Los poderes públicos promoverán las condiciones necesarias y establecerán las normas pertinentes para hacer efectivo este derecho, regulando la utilización del suelo de acuerdo con el interés general para impedir la especulación. La comunidad participará en las plusvalías que genere la acción urbanística de los entes públicos.”
La constitución española ha sido reformada una vez antes (Art. 13.2 Titulo I) para extender los derechos a los ciudadanos de la Unión Europea.
Proteger a los españoles y a todas las personas de España en ejercer los derechos humanos, sus costumbres y tradiciones, idiomas e instituciones.
¡El pueblo español esta pagando caro por la corrupción y avaricia del sector de la construcción y los bancos!
Finalmente, según el Índice de Corrupción Percibida, hecho por Transparancy International, ¡España ocupa el lugar 32 en 13 estudios independientes! ¡La verdad es que esto dice todo!
La percepción de España esta en un espiral descendiente y las personas de este país se tienen que dar cuenta de que mientras que el gobierno central y hasta los alcaldes locales ignoran los hechos no hay esperanza en el futuro visible para que España mantenga su orgullo.
Keith Donovan

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Marta Andreasen

You are receiving this email because you contacted Marta Andreasen’s office regarding the Spanish property scandal. I am Marta's parliamentary assistant, dedicated to this issue.

Here, I aim to explain Marta’s motivations and action.

Although elected by the South East of England, Marta has vowed to fight for this issue on behalf of all victims of this appalling affair, regardless of nationality or political constituency.

Marta Andreasen has taken on this problem, as she knows of the devastation caused by the corruption and badly drafted laws.

She feels strongly that homeowners are being treated unjustly and are receiving no protection from any of the responsible parties involved, the regional government, the Spanish government, their own government or the European Union.

Her office monitors the situation and is informed daily of developments through local contacts, amongst which we count property owners, journalists, lawyers and activists.

What is Marta doing? Since she confronted Prime Minister Zapatero in the opening session of the Spanish presidency, she has been busy gathering cross-party support to get the question debated at the European parliament.

She brought the matter up in the chamber not only to highlight the problem before the entire EU but also to let all parties know that she intends to pursue the matter.

Unlike Chris Bryant, the UK’s Europe minister, Marta remains unconditionally on the side of the all homeowners without admonishing, and is willing to challenge Spain (see

How can Marta help me? Her aim is to apply enough pressure on the Spanish government to seek a fair and balanced treatment of all affected. Marta is listening and looking for a settlement for all, but cannot get involved in individual cases.

Marta's action complements those of the individual homeowners as she is determined to apply political pressure through whatever means she has, including campaigning for the removal of subsidies. Her involvement is at the European political level.

What can I do? Carry on your defending your home! We would not be able to succeed without the pressure applied on the Spanish authorities by the victims of this appalling affair; we are asking people to keep going through their existing legal teams, and see the processes through.

You can also write your MEP, and keep reminding them of the issue. We cannot fight this from a single political party base.

What next? We will do everything we can until we have exhausted all avenues, but will stop short of making promises we cannot keep. We promise transparency in our action.

We will shortly start issuing regular information and will include you on the list. Feel free to contact me if you know of any news/cases that we could use.

Marta has become a member of the Petitions Committee of the European parliament, and will ensure that upcoming requests are given the importance they deserve.

She will also attend a march in Malaga on March 17, and meet with some of you (at a later date, to be announced).

Tuesday, 9 March 2010


Courtesy of The

Staff Reporter / 2010-03-09 15:15:21

For years unstoppable development fueled a real estate bubble that became the ideal breeding ground for political and business corruption schemes, with ties to illegal construction. And even now, two years after the bubble has burst with a bang and plunged Spain into a deep economic recession, the extent of that wave of corruption is still unravelling the length and breadth of the Valencian region. The common denominator in all the cases uncovered, in places such as Catral, Bigastro, Zarra, Llíber or Montroi, is the fact that they are all small communities whose mayors, in connivance with public workers, engineers, lawyers, developers and notaries, took advantage of the freedom that town halls have to run their own planning affairs.

Besides fattening municipal coffers, local authorities also lined their own pockets by looking the other way as thousands of homes were built on land zoned as rural — often in exchange for hefty bribes. The arrest of the former mayor of Montroi for authorizing the construction of 77 houses on rural land is just the latest in a series of corruption cases that have, on occasion, reached Mafia- like proportions: in Polop, the courts are investigating whether the former chief of town planning, Juan Cano, hired two gunmen to murder the mayor, Alejandro Ponsoda, and have free rein to handle his affairs.

Faced with a lack of discipline at the municipal level and an inefficient oversight by the Valencian government (the Consell), the police and the judiciary have finally stepped in to try to curb corruption through criminal proceedings. Experts agree that the predatory development model of the 1990s must be buried, and the officials involved expelled from electoral rolls. Both the Socialists and the Popular Party (PP), as well as nationalist groups, have been tainted by cases of municipal corruption.

On the other hand, the politicians involved know that, so far, graft has never lost any one of them an election. European buyers have been the main victims of these schemes, especially British and German retirees who make up large communities in the Valencian region. Encouraged by their own thriving economies, they bought illegally built properties almost with their eyes closed. The swindles were helped along by a lack of ethics on the part of local agents who knew the operations were unlawful. When the deception became public knowledge, the duped owners began demanding that their homes be made legal and requested compensation for damages.

Alarm bells regarding the legal insecurity of Valencian real estate first went off following a complaint filed by a group called Abusos Urbanísticos No (or, No to Town Planning Abuse). Enrique Climent, its president, underscores that the flood of corruption cases that have surfaced in the last three years are partly the result of that original complaint. “Let us not forget that the Spanish justice system is slow,” he says, adding that the origin of the problem lies in Valencia’s town planning laws. “The problem began with the LRAU [Ley Reguladora de la Actividad Urbanística], a zoning law that evidences a complete lack of judgment or logic, and which enabled a bunch of people [the developers] to behave like rustlers and appropriate the land that belonged to individual owners. One party [the Valencian Socialists] approved it, and another party [PP] enforced it for 11 years without regulations.”

Since 2002, Climent’s group has filed over 20,000 complaints — 80 percent on behalf of residents of the Valencian region — with the European Parliament’s Petitions Committee. This body sent delegations to the area in 2004, 2005 and 2007 to verify the reports of real estate abuses. Their conclusions were published in what became known as the Auken Report, a devastating document that explained all the “traps” that lay hidden behind Valencian town planning.

“They said that these alleged instances of abuse were isolated cases, just a few black sheep,” says Climent. “But time has proven us right, and the herd no longer looks so white.” Climent also highlights that the buyers of illegal properties, especially the British, bought them in good faith. “They bought them because their economic situation allowed for it, but they risked everything in these operations, and sold their homes in exchange for an illegal property in Spain. They were tricked. In one case, an English citizen who bought a home in Montroi signed two contracts, one in English and the other one in Spanish, but it wasn’t just the language that was different — so were the clauses.”

Manuel Alcaraz, a professor of Constitutional Law at Alicante University and president of the group Plataforma de Iniciativas Ciudadanas (or Platform for Citizen Initiatives), says that the root of the problem is the philosophy behind all the building. “It was all the result of a construction model based on making money in the short run, which leads inescapably to speculation and corruption,” he says. Another factor, adds Alcaraz, was the complicity of Spanish society. “This complicity reached the very top of the political parties, especially the PP,” he says. “No effort has been made toward regeneration or political ethics. The PP built its political empire on opacity.” Alcaraz also thinks that a change in legislation is in order. “They should introduce unjust enrichment as a crime. It can’t be normal for public officials who make €3,000 a month to display such flashy lifestyles.”

Alcaraz points to the ineffectiveness of control mechanisms as the key to understanding why town planning corruption became so generalized. This lack of oversight begins with town halls, where the departments for zoning discipline have done nothing to curb the excesses, and goes all the way up to the Consell.”

Carlos Arribas, an environmental activist and expert in real estate issues, agrees. “The proliferation of illegal homes on rural land has one root cause: the passivity of the Consell in exercising its powers, as described in the 1994 law on land zoned as not for building. That law includes enough mechanisms, such as the declarations of Community Interest Zone, to have put a stop to all the illegal construction,” says Arribas, the spokesman for the Alicante branch of the environmental group Ecologists in Action.

Another expert points to the deregulation of zoning laws, the lack of oversight and the connivance of public workers and other professionals as the cause of real estate corruption. Honorio Fernández, president of the consumers association AECU, which filed a suit that uncovered a construction scandal in Catral, says: “Montroi, Llíber… it’s all the same, and a result of the successive deregulation of the zoning laws that began under former Prime Minister José María Aznar and that extended to the Valencian region and its permissive LRAU, which was implemented without further regulations until 2005,” he explains. Fernández notes that the cooperation of several types of professionals was essential for the swindles to work.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Vile rumour dispelled - dirty tricks

On February 27th, the administrator of an Arboleas Forum wrote:

"Perhaps you are not aware of this fact. As told by the daughter of the Prior's to someone I personally know. That their building licence was for a house to be built where their garage is NOT where it was built. This is the main reason, as far as I am aware for the demolition order. It would be EXACTLY the same in the UK if someone built a house in the opposite corner to where planning permission had been granted. This detail is not in the public domain for obvious reasons. I respect those reasons and would not want to harm any prospect of them getting compensation. Therefore have never disclosed this fact on the forum."

To debunk this particular fact/rumour once and for all.

The content of the private message was sent to different sources, which were then linked back to Len and Helen Prior, who are far too dignified to get personally involved in these vicious rumours.

However, they did give me the following statement:

"The building license for 'Tranquilidad', the home belonging to Len and Helen Prior was revoked because the Junta said it could cause a POSSIBLE URBAN NUCLEUS. There was no other reason, other than political.

We are prepared to show documentary proof of this to anybody who thinks they know better."

In addition, I am told that all of the paperwork is in the town hall for anyone to see.

Also, you can download a copy of the Judgment of the Spanish Constitutional Court, which goes partly into the history of the matter, by following this link:

The Judgment centres on whether they were properly notified of the proceedings but recites the Town Hall deciding the following to comply with the order of the Almería court revoking the licence:

Los demandantes de amparo en fecha 5 de mayo de 2006 recibieron la siguiente resolución del Ayuntamiento de Vera:
"Primero.- Proceder a la incoación de expediente de restauración de la legalidad urbanística, en cumplimiento de la sentencia número 53/04 de fecha 19 de abril de 2004, dictada por el Juzgado de lo Contencioso Administrativo número 2 de Almería, en cuya virtud, se anula la licencia concedida a D. Leonard Jhon Prior y Dª Helen Prior, para la construcción de una vivienda en suelo no urbanizable en Paraje, La Loma del Municipio de Vera, al haber vulnerado el otorgamiento de la citada licencia, la prohibición de parcelación en suelo no urbanizable.

The situation:
Building licence given by Town Hall of Vera.
Revoked by court action brought by the Junta on the basis of the risk of an urban nucleus arising (ie the existence of an urban parcelisation).
Revocation of a building licence implies the demolition of what has been built in accordance with it.

Now, about vile rumours? More dirty tricks?